Port O’Connor Nearshore Reefing Site Receives $1M Initial Funding

John Blaha
Port O’Connor Nearshore Reefing Site Receives $1M Initial Funding
Pre-fabricated concrete pyramids being placed at Corpus Christi artificial reefing site. Photo credit: Lisa Laskowski

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation announced June 2, 2016 the creation of a new artificial reef to be placed out of Port O'Connor. The reef's price tag is projected at $1M and will be comprised of at least 500 concrete pyramids placed within Texas state waters. The project will be coordinated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's artificial reef program and is being funded through a $400,000 contribution from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and $300,000 from both Coastal Conservation Association Texas and Building Conservation Trust (BCT), the Coastal Conservation Association's national habitat program. This reef site will be named "Keeping it Wild" and is part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation's fundraising initiative to generate more than $100M in private donations to help fund Texas conservation projects.

"Habitat creation has never been more crucial in achieving lasting conservation benefit for our coastal waters," said Pat Murray, CCA president. "This historic reef reminds us what can be accomplished when like-minded conservationists join together to make a difference."

CCA Texas and its habitat program, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow, were instrumental in the development of the Port O'Connor nearshore reefing site early on. Sharing the common goal to have an artificial reefing site out of every Texas port with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Artificial Reefing Program, CCA Texas approved a grant of $100,000 in late 2013 to fund the permitting process to establish a Port O'Connor reefing site. With the permitting process on its way, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, BCT, and CCA Texas began the fundraising process to create the $1M reef. CCA Texas approved another $200,000 towards the project in 2014 and BCT contributed $300,000 to go along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation's $400,000 commitment. This project exemplifies the importance of partnerships and common goals that are necessary to create successful conservation projects of this magnitude. These projects are important and a benefit to sportsman across the state of Texas, and leave a lasting impact to Texas's natural resources for generations to come.

"It's a win-win deal for all involved," Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, said of the cooperative agreement to create an artificial reef on a 381-acre tract in 60-70 feet of water off Matagorda Island near Port O'Connor on Texas' mid-coast. "The only way we can possibly undertake projects of this scale is through leveraging public funding with private philanthropy. It's allowing us to do something bigger and better – in this case, create and enhance vitally important and much-needed marine fisheries habitat – than we could do by ourselves with our limited resources."

The center of the Port O'Connor reefing site is located approximately 11-1/2 NM SSW of the Port O'Connor jetties, 6 NM off of the Matagorda Island shoreline and at a depth of 66 feet. The location and depth of this site make it easily accessible for recreational anglers to enjoy and will provide the opportunity to fish for popular species such as red snapper and pelagics like cobia, amberjack, king mackerel and others year-round. At 381 acres, this site is twice the normal size of most nearshore reefing projects, which are typically 160 acres. In addition, there are currently two standing platforms within the reefing site and TPWD's hope is that these two non-operating platforms will remain in the site and as part of the project.

"CCA Texas is excited to see another nearshore fishing opportunity for recreational anglers," commented Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow committee chairman, Jay Gardner. "Recreational fishermen are a huge part of our local economies, and these nearshore reefing sites will not only help in giving recreational fishermen more opportunities to fish for sought-after species, but also continue to grow these economies."

CCA Texas is committed to continuing the effort to provide nearshore reefing habitat along the entire Texas coast. To date, CCA Texas has contributed in excess of $1.0 million to nearshore reefing efforts that include Freeport (Vancouver), Port Mansfield, Corpus Christi (Packery), Matagorda/Sargent, and new sites at Rio Grande, Sabine HI20, Galveston Big Man and Port O'Connor. For more information about CCA Texas's involvement in nearshore reefing and other habitat projects, be sure to visit www.ccatexas.org/habitat.